Using blackface is a sin, in a secular sense, but should it be a crime?
City Councilwoman Cindy Bass thinks so, and has introduced a bill to make wearing blackface a crime, with a $75 fine. She thus reduces something really hateful to something like a parking ticket.
This issue is related to Mayor Jim Kenney’s irrational warning to the Mummers to clean up their act or face serious consequences, including banishment and replacement with a city-sponsored, “inclusive” New Year’s parade.
So very many half-brained ideas, where to start?
Let’s start with Bass. I could not find her bill online, and an email sent to her requesting a copy went unanswered, but this was Friday, which is known as Death Valley in certain parts of City Hall.
I wanted to know how she would avoid First Amendment concerns. The last paragraph of the Inquirer’s story on the Mummers inbroglio says regulating blackface “is a legally thorny issue due to the First Amendment’s free-speech protections. Bass said she is working with the city’s Law Department to craft a measure that would pass legal muster.”
If I read this right, Bass introduced her bill before checking its constitutionality.
This seem bass-ackwards, pardon the pun. Wouldn’t a rational person check legality before submitting it? Maybe in the real world, but not in Philadelphia.
(Update 1/27: Bass says she did consult with someone in law department.)
A call to the ACLU was not returned before deadline. It makes me wonder if I should increase — or decrease — my annual donation.
I know on background that Americans can wear swastikas, they can burn crosses, they can wave Confederate flags, they can burn the U.S. Flag under the protection of free speech. We may not like it, but that is the burden of freedom. The Founders did not imagine safe spaces or trigger warnings.
So how can Bass imagine blackface would not be protected as free expression? I would have asked her that, had she answered my email.
Back to our two-faced mayor. For someone who was a Mummer for decades (Jokers Fancy Brigade) he is remarkably dim about what the parade is. What it is not is a celebration of national, ethnic and cultural diversity. It is not a United Nations agency. Its “modern” roots are in Britain and Sweden, so, yeah, that’s kind of white. And Odunde is black. (#OdundeSoBlack) So what?
Does our red-faced mayor roar about the St. Patrick’s Parade: Too many Irish! I can imagine him screaming. as Chinatown celebrates the lunar new year: Not enough Jews!
In his warning letter to the five Mummers Divisions, he called the Mummers Parade “one of our city’s most unique and recognizable traditions,” but moments later said bad behavior by “a few participants” has stained the parade.
The mayor demanded Mummers make “immediate changes to better control the parade and organize yourselves.”
In recent years, the guilt-laden Mummers have agreed to city-sponsored sensitivity training, and have submitted themes, music and costumes for city approval.
The two mamaluks that wore blackface were banned from the Mummers. They managed to slip through Mummers scrutiny, and also city reps along the parade route.
Kenney said there is drunkeness in the parade, and there is, and cops can act if they are told to, but the city’s general attitude is to ignore “small” crime. Kenney also said some Mummers harrassed city officials and cops.
You mean city officials and cops are powerless? Maybe you have some organizing to do, Mayor Kenney.
Basically you are punishing the many for the sins of the few. Tell me how that fits in with your ideas about social justice.
Your talk about banning the Mummers because of their lack of control over their members led me to satirize you and suggest Democrats be banned because so many elected Democrat officials have been sent to jail and they did far more damage to our city than a couple of fools in blackface, which does not happen every year, despite what a few hysterics on Twitter say. Although the incidents are few, they are loudly condemned by the Mummers. How many jailed elected Democrats have you condemned, Mr. Mayor?
Finally, lastly, we reach your threat to kick the Mummers off Broad Street (they will return to South Philly and own Two Street), and replace it with a diverse parade we can all be proud of.
Let me guess . . . Not the drag queens, because they will stick with the fun parade.
Your PC replacement parade will start with a unit of “returning citizens,” and I’d advise ladies hide their handbags under overcoats when these guys shuffle past.
Then we will have Native Americans from Delaware Valley tribes in Brooks Brothers suits to appropriate European culture as payback.
Following will be representatives of the three dozen gender identifications recognized by the city. Each will carry a poster showing its gender pronoun selection.
Really fun will be the 16 Little League teams who do not keep score, each player waving a plastic participation loving cup.
In a different uniform are Philadelphians in the famous school-to-prison pipeline.
Satire will be provided by students from the University of the Arts, who will march in silence for fear of offending someone.
A group of mimes in whiteface will be applauded by the City Commission on Human Relations for reasons we all understand.
The largest group representIng our 25% poverty population will panhandle along the three-block parade route.
Finally, a crowd favorite, a Septa bus painted like a clown car containing City Council and the mayor.
People will come from all over the world to see this hot mess on a cold day.